JAPAN: Tier 2
Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for children subjected to sex trafficking. Male and female migrant workers, mainly from Asia, are subjected to conditions of forced labor, including through the government’s Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (TITP). Some men, women, and children from East Asia, Southeast Asia (mainly the Philippines and Thailand), South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central America travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of women into Japan for forced prostitution in bars, clubs, brothels, and massage parlors. Traffickers strictly control the movement of victims using debt bondage, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, and other coercive psychological methods. Victims of forced prostitution sometimes face debts upon commencement of their contracts. Most are required to pay employers fees for living expenses, medical care, and other necessities, leaving them predisposed to debt bondage. “Fines” for alleged misbehavior are added to victims’ original debt, and the process brothel operators use to calculate these debts is typically not transparent. Trafficking victims transit Japan between East Asia and North America.
Japanese nationals, particularly runaway teenage girls and children of foreign and Japanese citizens who have acquired nationality, are also subjected to sex trafficking. The phenomenon of enjo kosai, also known as “compensated dating” and variants of the “JK business” (JK stands for joshi-kosei or high school girl) continue to facilitate the prostitution of Japanese children. Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls—often in poverty or with mental and intellectual disabilities—in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims. Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia.
Cases of forced labor occur within TITP, a government-run program that was originally designed to foster basic industrial skills and techniques among foreign workers, but has instead become a guest worker program. During the “internship,” many migrant workers are placed in jobs that do not teach or develop technical skills—the original intention of the TITP; some of these workers continued to experience conditions of forced labor. The majority of technical interns are Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, some of whom pay up to $10,000 for jobs and are employed under contracts that mandate forfeiture of the equivalent of thousands of dollars if workers try to leave. Reports continue of excessive fees, deposits, and “punishment” contracts under this program. Some employers confiscate trainees’ passports and other personal identification documents and control the movements of interns to prevent their escape or communication with persons outside the program.
The Government of Japan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government conducted a comprehensive review of TITP and submitted a reform bill to the Diet that establishes a third-party management audit body with the capacity to punish perpetrators of forced labor and improves redress mechanisms for migrant workers. It also issued a revised national plan of action and established a minister-level committee to implement the plan. The government, however, did not develop or enact legislation that would fill key gaps in the law and thereby facilitate prosecutions of trafficking crimes. The government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TITP, and the overall numbers of prosecutions and convictions decreased since 2013. The government did not develop specific protection and assistance measures for trafficking victims, such as establishing a nationwide network of shelters exclusively for trafficking victims apart from the existing network of shelters for victims of domestic violence. The government did not accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR JAPAN:
Draft and enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute forced labor cases and punish convicted traffickers with jail time; enact the TITP reform bill; increase enforcement of bans on excessive deposits, “punishment” agreements, withholding of passports, and other practices that contribute to forced labor in the TITP; implement the newly expanded victim identification procedures for front-line officers to recognize both male and female victims of forced labor or sex trafficking; enhance screening of victims to ensure potential victims of trafficking are not detained or forcibly deported for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; set aside resources to provide specialized care and assistance to trafficking victims, including designated shelters for trafficking victims; aggressively investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish Japanese nationals who engage in child sex tourism; and accede to the 2000 UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention and the TIP Protocol.
The government decreased anti-trafficking prosecution efforts. Japan’s criminal code does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by international law, and the government relies on various provisions of laws relating to prostitution, abduction, child welfare, and employment to prosecute trafficking in persons crimes. Articles 7 through 12 of the 1956 Prostitution Prevention Law prohibit prostitution-related crimes, including forced prostitution. Articles 225 through 227 of the 1907 Penal Code prohibit abduction by force or deception for various purposes (including for “profit” and “indecency”) and the buying or selling of human beings. Those provisions also criminalize delivering, receiving, transporting, or hiding—but not recruiting—a person for those purposes. The 1947 Employment Security Act makes it a crime for a person to engage in labor recruitment “by means of violence, intimidation, confinement, or other unjust restraint on mental or physical freedom” or to recruit laborers for “work harmful to public health or morals.” The government reports it relies on that law to prosecute forced labor, including sex trafficking. In addition, Japan’s 1947 Child Welfare Act broadly criminalizes harming a child—to include causing a child to commit an obscene act or an act harmful to the child—which has reportedly been the basis for prosecuting a defendant for subjecting a child to prostitution. However, the Child Welfare Act does not appear to cover all forms of child sex trafficking, as it does not reach the recruitment, transport, transfer, or receipt of a child for the purpose of prostitution. Articles 225 and 226 provide a 10-year maximum penalty for abducting by force or deception and for buying a person for the purpose of profit or indecency, which is sufficiently stringent and generally commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, transporting a person across international borders as part of those crimes of abduction and buying and selling a person to be abducted, bought, or sold is a lesser crime subject to a two-year maximum penalty. Other crimes relied on by Japanese prosecutors to prosecute trafficking offenses also carry insufficiently stringent penalties. An offender who prostitutes a child and is convicted of endangering a child’s welfare by “causing the child to commit an act making an impact that is mentally or physically harmful to the child” could be punished only with the payment of a fine, as the penalty is a maximum of three years’ imprisonment, a fine of the equivalent of one million yen ($8,000), or both. Similarly, to the extent the Employment Security Act criminalizes the recruitment prong of forced labor, the allowed maximum punishment of a minimum fine of 200,000 yen ($1,700) is insufficiently stringent. In addition, some forms of forced prostitution are punishable by a maximum of three years’ imprisonment or a fine. Others are subject to five years’ imprisonment without the alternative of a fine.
The government reported two prosecutions and one conviction under the trafficking provisions of its criminal code; otherwise it utilized other nontrafficking provisions to prosecute possible trafficking crimes. The government investigated 32 cases for offenses related to human trafficking, compared with 28 in 2013, and convicted 17 sex traffickers, compared with 31 in 2013. Of the 17 convicted traffickers, five received prison sentences, eight received suspended sentences, and four received fines. Despite numerous reports and allegations of possible labor trafficking offenses under the TITP, including confiscation of passports, imposition of exorbitant fines, and arbitrary deduction of salaries resulting from non-contractual infractions, the government did not prosecute or convict traffickers involved in the use of TITP labor. The government reported investigating 661 cases of child prostitution; 507 resulted in prosecutions, compared with 709 in 2013. It was unclear how many resulted in convictions and how many of the cases involved child sex trafficking. The National Police Agency (NPA), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Bureau of Immigration, and Public Prosecutor’s office continued to conduct numerous anti-trafficking trainings for senior investigators and police officers, prosecutors, judges, and immigration bureau officers on identifying victims and investigating trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government’s protection efforts continued to be hampered by a narrow definition of human trafficking. The government has never identified a forced labor victim in the TITP, despite substantial evidence of trafficking indicators, including debt bondage, passport confiscation, and confinement. NPA officials identified 25 female sex trafficking victims, compared with 21 in 2013. Seven of the 12 Japanese nationals identified were children. The police reported identifying 464 victims of child prostitution. The government reported providing psychological counseling and medical care to victims of child prostitution. The government continued to lack trafficking victim-specific services, but funded Japan’s Women’s Consulting Center (WCC) shelters and domestic violence shelters, which assisted five of the trafficking victims. Other victims were assisted in NGO shelters or returned to their homes. WCC shelters provided food, basic needs, psychological care, and coverage of medical expenses, and allowed the victims to leave the facilities when accompanied by facility personnel. Japan continued to lack dedicated shelters or clearly defined resources for male victims.
NPA officials used an IOM-developed handbook and the Inter-Ministerial Liaison Committee’s manuals to identify victims and refer victims to available services. In 2014, a law enforcement task force developed a new anti-trafficking manual for frontline officers. Some victims were reluctant to seek government assistance due to the perception of a lack of protective services available to identified victims. No assistance to victims of forced labor or abused “interns” in the TITP was reported, as the government did not screen for or identify victims among this vulnerable population. The government-funded Legal Support Center provided pro bono legal services to destitute victims of crime for both criminal and civil cases; for the third consecutive year, it was unclear whether any trafficking victims applied for or received such services. Although the law prohibits trafficking victims from being punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, some women in prostitution detained during police raids and arrested migrant workers were fined or deported without being screened for indicators of trafficking. Temporary, long term, and permanent residency benefits were available to victims who feared returning to their home country; the government granted two long-term residency visas. In most cases, however, foreign victims chose to return to their home country rather than stay through the lengthy investigation and trial period. Victims had the right to seek compensation from their traffickers, but no victim has ever sought restitution to date.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. It issued a revised national plan of action and established a ministerial-level committee chaired by the Chief Cabinet Secretary to oversee the implementation of the revised plan. The plan outlined efforts to reform the TITP, train frontline officers, and improve protection and assistance for trafficking victims. Authorities did not specify budget allocations or a time frame to implement the plan. As part of the plan’s implementation, the government conducted a comprehensive review of the TITP and drafted a reform bill submitted to the Diet in March 2015. The reform bill establishes a third-party entity to conduct management audits, an oversight mechanism to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes of forced labor, and a redress mechanism for foreign migrants, and designates responsible ministries. The government continued to advertise the multilingual emergency contact hotline number at local immigration offices and governments of source countries, conduct online trafficking awareness campaigns, and publicize trafficking arrests to raise awareness. The MOJ banned 22 supervising organizations and 218 implementing organizations from receiving TITP interns in 2014. The Japan International Trade Cooperation Organization, a government entity designated to monitor the TITP, conducted employer visits and trainings, operated a hotline for TITP interns, and distributed the TITP workers’ handbooks in six languages.
In an effort to reduce demand for commercial sex, the Cabinet Office continued to distribute posters, leaflets, and passport inserts nationwide with warning messages to potential consumers of sexual services. Japan is a source of demand for child sex tourism, with Japanese men traveling and engaging in commercial sexual exploitation of children in other Asian countries—particularly Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia; the government did not investigate or prosecute anyone for child sex tourism. The NPA hosted a conference on commercial sexual exploitation of children in Southeast Asia in December 2014, during which officials shared case details with Thai, Cambodian, Philippine, and Indonesian police counterparts. The government provided anti-trafficking training for troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions and for its diplomatic personnel. Japan is the only G-7 country that is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.